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Thursday, January 29, 1998 Published at 16:56 GMT



UK

Tranquiliser users seek justice in Europe
image: [ Previous attempts to get compensation through the British courts have failed ]
Previous attempts to get compensation through the British courts have failed


Psychiatrist Dr Cosmo Hallstrom says fewer tranquillisers are now being prescribed
People who claim they became addicted to prescription drugs are to take their case for compensation to the European Court of Human Rights.

Previous attempts to sue the manufacturers of Valium and other tranquilisers have been thrown out by the British courts.


[ image: Early films promoted tranquilisers as a cure-all]
Early films promoted tranquilisers as a cure-all
Now the human rights group, Liberty, is arguing that thousands of people who claim they were damaged by such drugs have been denied a fair hearing.

"It's a fundamental principle in the European Convention that a right to a fair trial includes a right of access to a court, and they've never had that," said Liberty spokesman Philip Leach.

The group is taking 30 cases to Europe.

Doctors have learnt about the dangers

It has been claimed that a third of the adult population is on some form of tranquiliser, sleeping pill or anti-depressant.

Originally billed as a pick-me-up, tranquilisers were claimed to be a pill for every ill. Since 1988 doctors have been warned of the potentially addictive nature of some of the drugs.


[ image: Newer drugs like Prozac have become popular]
Newer drugs like Prozac have become popular
Limits are now imposed on the amounts which can be supplied.

Dr Robert Lefever, from the Promis Recovery Clinic, first warned about the dangers of tranquilisers 20 years ago.

He said the medical profession was still concealing the true extent of the problem: "I do believe that the major statement about late 20th century prescribing habits will be about the use of mood-altering drugs. How on earth did doctors not realise what we were doing?"

But a leading psychiatrist, Dr Cosmo Hallstrom, told the BBC that people should not overreact: "There now needs to be some realistic view of where the pendulum should be."

Obviously we don't want to dope the population up, but nor do we want to under-treat people who really do have a problem."






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